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Week One Legislative Report: 373 bills introduced in the first week of the 2018 Regular Session

Beth Lyons

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Contributed by Beth Marietta Lyons
Lyons Law Firm

The Alabama Legislature began its annual Regular Session on Tuesday, January 9. As the annual Session is limited by law to 30 session days within a 105 calendar day period, the Session must conclude by April 23, 2018.

After convening at noon on Tuesday and conducting general business relating to the opening of the Session, both Houses recessed for the Governor’s annual State of the State address Tuesday evening. Initiatives referenced in the Governor’s speech were pay raises for education (2.5 percent) and state employees (3 percent), more money for the Department of Corrections to improve mental health care and hire more correction officers, and improving broadband access throughout the state.

On Wednesday, committee meetings were held, and both Houses reconvened on Thursday to receive the bills which were reported favorably from committee and conduct general business.

There were 373 bills introduced during the week. 14 committees met to consider multiple bills.

The Legislature will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, January 16 for day 3 of the Session with the House convening at 1:00 p.m. and the Senate at 2:00 p.m. Twenty-five committees have scheduled meetings as of the time of this report.

2018 is an election year for all Constitutional officers and all members of the legislature as well as various local races. Party qualifying opened on this past Monday and will end at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 9. The Party Primaries will be held on Tuesday, June 5 with the Run-Off on Tuesday, July 17, and the General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 6.

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All candidates are barred from soliciting or receiving campaign contributions until February 5. Alabama law in general prohibits campaign contributions during the Legislative Session unless it is within 120 days before the Primary Election. The 120 days prior to the June primary results in the February 5 date.

SIGNIFICANT INTRODUCTIONS THIS WEEK:

A bill was introduced in both Houses that would amend the Simplified Sellers Use Tax Program. This would allow online sellers, even when they have a retail sales facility in the state, to participate in the program [HB110 by Representative Rod Scott and SB130 by Senator Trip Pittman].

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A bill was introduced in both Houses that would prohibit municipalities from regulating transportation network companies (Uber, Lyft) and provide for permitting and licensing by the Public Service Commission [HB190 by Representative David Faulkner and SB143 by Senator Bobby Singleton].

A bill was introduced in the House that would provide that a retired firefighter who is diagnosed with cancer that is considered an occupational disease would receive supplemental insurance coverage or reimbursement of expenses for medical treatment. The bill is pending in the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee [HB41 by Representative Tommy Hanes].

A bill was introduced in the House that would require previously exempt faith-based child care facilities to be licensed by the Department of Human Resources and meet standard safety requirements. The bill is pending in the House Children and Senior Advocacy Committee [HB76 by Representative Pebblin Warren].

A bill was introduced in the House that would authorize Class 2 municipalities (Mobile) to provide for the abatement and removal of inoperable motor vehicles on private property under certain circumstances. The bill is pending in the House Mobile County Legislation Committee [HB127 by Representative Adline Clarke].

A bill was introduced in the House that would authorize a county to use warrant funds on public facilities owned by a municipality located within the county. The bill is pending in the House County and Municipal Government Committee [HB148 by Representative Randy Davis].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would authorize carrying or possessing a firearm without a permit in automobiles and certain other locations. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee [SB3 by Senator Gerald Allen].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would authorize a county commission to call for a referendum on the levy of an excise tax, for a period not to exceed five years, on gasoline and diesel fuel, not to exceed five cents per gallon, for road and bridge projects identified by the county prior to the referendum. The bill is pending in the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee [SB89 by Senator Arthur Orr].

A bill was introduced in the House that would require the state, a county, a municipality or a local board of education to sell at public auction or transfer to the Alabama Land Bank Authority any building owned by such that is unused and has been uninhabited for not less than two years. The bill is pending in the House State Government Committee [HB95 by Representative Jack (JD) Williams].

A bill was introduced in both Houses that would reestablish the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) [HB1 by Representative Tommy Hanes and SB2 by Senator Shay Shelnutt].

A bill was introduced in both Houses that would require all non-volunteer fire departments to install diesel exhaust systems in fire station buildings within a certain time frame and under certain conditions [HB7 by Representative Tommy Hanes and SB4 by Senator Rusty Glover].

A bill was introduced in both Houses that would revise some of the procedures related to the Alabama Disaster Recovery Program [HB56 by Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter and SB43 by Senator Greg Albritton].

A bill was introduced in both Houses that would create the Association of Former Members of the Alabama Legislature whose purpose would be to cooperatively promote public service and strengthen representative democracy and our republican form of government [HB93 by Representative Jack (JD) Williams and SB110 by Senator Greg Reed].

A bill was introduced in the House that would allow a municipal governing body to opt out of the requirements of the Memorial Preservation Act passed in the 2017 Regular Session. The bill is pending in the House State Government Committee [HB15 by Representative Juandalynn Givan].

A bill was introduced in the House that would repeal the Memorial Preservation Act of 2017. The bill is pending in the House State Government Committee [HB16 by Representative Juandalynn Givan].

A bill was introduced in the House that would exempt the gross proceeds from the sale of gold, silver, platinum, and palladium bullion, and money from sales and use tax in the state for five years. The bill is pending in the House Ways and Means Education Committee [HB19 by Representative Ron Johnson].

A bill was introduced in the House that would abolish boards, commissions, committees, task forces and authorities that are inactive or inoperable. The bill is pending in the House Boards, Agencies and Commission Committee [HB22 by Representative Chris Pringle].

A bill was introduced in the House that would provide that a person is not criminally liable for using physical or deadly force in self-defense or in the defense of another on the premises of a church. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee [HB34 by Representative Lynn Greer].

A bill was introduced in the House that would require abortion providers to provide a woman seeking an abortion with certain information prior to performing an abortion. The bill is pending in the House Health Committee [HB52 by Representative Kerry Rich].

A bill was introduced in the House that would allow the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to temporarily assign a circuit or district judge to another circuit to address court congestion and backlog of cases. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee [HB68 by Representative Jim Hill].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment was filed in the House that would establish an Alabama Lottery with the proceeds being used to fund scholarships. The bill is pending in the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee [HB112 by Representative Craig Ford].

A bill was introduced in the House that would allow teachers in grades K through 12 to use the Bible and other scripture to instruct students on religious history and other subjects. The bill is pending in the House Education Policy Committee [HB114 by Representative Lynn Greer].

A bill was introduced in the House that would require a person over the age of 21 convicted of sex offenses against a child 12 years of age or younger to be chemically castrated, at the offender’s expense, before being released from custody. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee [HB116 by Representative Steve Hurst].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced in the House that would require any vacancy in the State Legislature, with less than 2 years remaining on the term of office, to be filled by appointment of the Governor and would prohibit the appointed person from running for the office at the next regular election. The bill is pending in the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee [HB123 by Representative Victor Gaston].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced in the House that would authorize the display of the Ten Commandments on state or public property but would prohibit the expenditure of public funds in defense of the constitutionality of this amendment. The bill is pending in the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee [HB144 by Representative Arnold Mooney].

A bill was introduced in the House that would authorize the display of the national motto “In God We Trust” in or on any public building or public school in the state. The bill is pending in the House Committee on State Government [HB145 by Representative Arnold Mooney].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced in the House that would exempt the state from the observance of daylight saving time. The bill is pending in the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee [HB185 by Representative Tommy Hanes].

A bill was introduced in the House that would create an exception that would allow the surviving spouse of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, rescue squad member, or certain volunteer firefighters, killed in the line of duty to continue to receive benefits for life, even after remarriage, and would extend benefits to a surviving minor child until the age of majority. The bill is pending in the House State Government Committee [HB192 by Representative Matt Fridy].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would exempt the renaming of public schools from the Memorial Preservation Act of 2017. The bill is pending in the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee [SB11 by Senator Dick Brewbaker].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced in the Senate that would require that vacancies in the Alabama House and Senate be filled by appointment of the Governor if there are less than 2 years remaining on the term of office at the time the vacancy occurs. The bill is pending in the Senate Constitution, Ethics and Elections Committee [SB15 by Senator Rusty Glover].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would provide for the availability of stem cell treatment options for certain patients with terminal illnesses or severe chronic illnesses under certain conditions. The bill is pending in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee [SB16 by Senator Gerald Allen].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced in the Senate that would establish the Governor appointed position of Director of Education in lieu of the State Superintendent of Education and create a Board of Counsel appointed by the Director of Education in lieu of the elected State Board of Education. The bill is pending in the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee [SB24 by Senator Greg Albritton].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would, without a Constitutional Amendment, establish the Governor appointed position of Director of Education in lieu of the State Superintendent of Education and create a Board of Counsel appointed by the Director of Education in lieu of the elected State Board of Education. The bill is pending in the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee [SB25 by Senator Greg Albritton].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would authorize a municipal court judge to remit court costs where it is determined a defendant cannot afford to pay the full amount and remove the authority of a mayor to commute sentences. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee [SB34 by Senator Cam Ward].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would provide for the voluntary transfer of a case from municipal court to the county district or circuit court when the defendant qualifies for a pretrial diversion program, mental health court, veteran court or similar program. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee [SB37 by Senator Cam Ward].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would provide that a municipality may authorize a law enforcement officer to issue a summons and complaint in lieu of custodial arrest for misdemeanors and violations. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee [SB41 by Senator Cam Ward].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would require the Land Commissioner to contract with a qualified auction company to sell at public auction lands, except lands in jurisdictions that have adopted expedited quiet title laws, which were sold for taxes and have not been redeemed within five years from the date the land was sold. The bill is pending in the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee [SB47 by Senator Trip Pittman].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would extend, until 2022, income tax credits for homeowners and businesses who participate in neighborhood revitalization projects through Neighborhood Infrastructure Authorities. The bill is pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee [SB49 by Senator Trip Pittman].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would provide for the disposal of abandoned or derelict vessels. The bill is pending in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee [SB50 by Senator Trip Pittman].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would allow the taking of whitetail deer or feral swine by means of bait. The bill is pending in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee [SB61 by Senator Gerald Dial].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would establish the Alabama Road and Bridge Rehabilitation and Improvement Authority to establish a local and state program for financing the rehabilitation and Improvement of roads and bridges with the debt obligations paid solely from the proceeds from additional gasoline and diesel fuel excise taxes and registration fees on certain alternative fuel vehicles. The bill is pending in the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee [SB86 by Senator Gerald Dial].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced in the Senate that would remove the Lt. Governor as the president of the Senate, and provide that the sole duty of the Lt. Governor would be to succeed the Governor upon his removal from office. The bill is pending in the Senate Constitution, Ethics and Elections Committee [SB88 by Senator Gerald Dial].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would prohibit the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board from increasing the mark-up on the sale of alcoholic beverages except by a law enacted by the Legislature. The bill is pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee [SB120 by Senator Bill Holtzclaw].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced in the Senate that would limit State Senators and Representatives from serving more than 3 consecutive terms of office. The bill is pending in the Senate Constitution, Ethics and Elections Committee [SB127 by Senator Bill Hightower].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would allow capital defendants to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia if lethal injection is unavailable or the defendant so chooses, and allow a capital defendant to elect to serve a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in lieu of the sentence of death. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee [SB128 by Senator Trip Pittman].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would require the Governor to set an election to fill a vacancy in the office of US Senator within a specified time frame. The bill is pending in the Senate Constitution, Ethics and Elections Committee [SB129 by Senator Trip Pittman].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would allow for the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption in specified community development districts in certain circumstances. The bill is pending in the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee [SB146 by Senator Steve Livingston].

A bill was introduced in both Houses that would eliminate separate Primary Election ballots, except for the office of President of the US, placing all candidates, including independent candidates, on one ballot with the two candidates receiving the most votes, regardless of party, being placed on the ballot for the General Election. The bill is pending in the Senate Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee [HB 193 by Representative A.J. McCampbell and SB164 by Senator Bobby Singleton].

SIGNIFICANT COMMITTEE ACTION THIS WEEK:

The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee gave favorable reports to several Sunset bills which continue various state boards, agencies and commissions. Among the bills considered were bills to extend the State Pilotage Commission, the Sickle Cell Oversight and Regulatory Commission, the State Oil and Gas Board and the Elevator Safety Review Board.

The House State Government Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would require the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue to convene the first meeting of the Alabama Land Bank Authority Board and allow the Board to obtain the state’s interest in real property acquired as a result of its sale for delinquent state taxes and retained in the state’s inventory for a period of five or more years [HB54 by Representative Ron Johnson].

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would abolish the requirement that a marriage license be issued by the judge of probate; instead the marriage would be entered into by contract which would be recorded with the judge of probate following execution. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB13 by Senator Greg Albritton].

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would allow qualified retired law enforcement officers to carry firearms in certain designated places where firearms are otherwise not allowed except by active law enforcement officers. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB27 by Senator Jimmy Holley].

The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would decrease the maximum amount of unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 14 weeks. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB92 by Senator Arthur Orr].

The Senate Constitution, Ethics and Elections Committee and the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections gave favorable reports to bills that would require the Governor to appoint a person to fill a vacancy in the US Senate and schedule an election at the next regularly scheduled General Election instead of calling a Special Election [SB18 by Senator Gerald Dial and HB17 by Representative Steve Clouse].

The House Insurance Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would authorize the Care Assurance System for the Aging and Homebound and its affiliated local centers to participate in the Local Government Health Insurance Program. The bill now goes to the full House [HB48 by Representative Kerry Rich].

A House Insurance Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would require a right-of-redemption claim be exercised no later than one year after the date of foreclosure. The bill now goes to the full House [HB90 by Representative Kerry Rich].

THE BUDGETS

The General Fund Budget, HB156 sponsored by Rep. Steve Clouse, is pending in the House Ways & Means General Fund Committee.

The Education Trust Fund budgets, HB175 by Rep. Poole and SB165 by Sen. Orr, are pending the House Ways and Means Education Committee and the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, respectively.

SUMMARY

  • House Bills Introduced: 202
  • Senate Bills Introduced: 171
  • Total Bills Introduced: 373
  • Bills Passed: 0
  • Bills Enacted: 0

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House passes General Fund Budget

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.

The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.

Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”

Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.

The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.

Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.

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Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.

The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.

Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.

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The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.

Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.

The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.

In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.

SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.

Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”

State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”

The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.

The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.

The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.

The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.

Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.

SB185 passed 101-0.

Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.

Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1  for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.

SB215 passed the House 87-0.

The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.

State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.

SB231 passed 87-2.

The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.

The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.

The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.

Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.

Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.

Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.

 

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Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday

Sam Mattison

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By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.

Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.

Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.

The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.

Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.

Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.

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Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.

Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.

Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.

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Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.

The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.

Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.

It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.

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Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor

Sam Mattison

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By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.

The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.

Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.

Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.

Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.

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Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.

Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.

The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.

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Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.

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House OKs bill to clarify consulting contracts by state legislators

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to try to clarify how legislators accept consulting contracts under Alabama’s 2010 ethics law. Some pundits have suggested that House Bill 387 is actually designed to weaken the existing ethics law.

Sponsor state Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, argues that the legislation is merely a clarification and is intended to prevent legislators from inadvertently crossing the line into illegality.

Wingo said that his bill would require legislators to notify the Alabama Ethics Commission that they have entered into a consulting agreement in an area outside of their normal scope of work.

State Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, said, “I have never understood why members of this body were allowed to take contracts as consultants or counselors.”

Wingo said, “Never do I use the word counselor in my bill; it is consulting.”

Beckman asked, “Are we going to be getting into an area where  every time we turn around we create a bureaucratic nightmare where we have to go get an opinion. These opinions whether it is orally or written don’t hold up in a court of law.” Beckman said, “We are serving the people here but we get this admonition that we can still be a consultant if we get an opinion.”

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Wingo said, “This does not apply to professions where a member is currently licensed.”

Beckman said, “I would like to see more opinions coming out of the Ethics Commission. Right now we have the Ethics Commission competing with the Attorney General’s office over who has more authority.”

State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said,”This happened to a friend of mine. He just got out of prison. He was a state senator and had a written letter from the Ethics Commission which his lawyer read at trial and the jury convicted him anyway.”

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Rogers never named his friend, but reporters think he was talking about former state Sen. Edward Browning ‘E. B.’ McClain who spent over 22 years in the legislature until he was convicted on 47 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, bribery, and money laundry in 2009.

A federal jury found that McClain and the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue were guilty in a scheme where McClain would secure public funds for Pettagrue’s community programs and then receive a kickback once the funds were in hand. McClain was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison. McClain was not prosecuted under the Alabama ethics law as the state has a much weaker ethics statute then. The current ethics law was passed in 2010.

Rogers said, “If they offer me a consulting contract for a field like aerospace engineering that I know nothing about they are trying to pay me off. If you can already be a consultant for something you know about why would you seek a consulting contract for something you don’t know about.

Rogers this is how they can pay you off for your vote.”

State Rep. Artis “A.J.” McCampbell said, “I don’t like making changes to things like this because we get into things called unintended consequences.”

McCampbell was reading from the bill and Wingo said, “You are reading from the original version it has completely changed.” “We worked tirelessly on this bill with the Ethics Commission this is not a fly by night bill.”

“If a member of the legislature enters into a contract to do a consulting contract outside of their normal field of work this bill requires that they consult with the Ethics Commission first,” Wingo said. “It is up to the member to notify the Ethics Commission not to the company or person offering them the money.”

State Representative Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said, “Everybody but legislators are allowed to do contract work up to $30,000.”

Rep. Wingo said, “This is not intended to be a roadblock.”

State Representative Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, said, “The whole purpose of this is not to prevent members from doing work in your field.” “What you are doing is offering to protect me.”

State Representative John Knight, D-Montgomery, asked Wingo what the Alabama Attorney General said about this legislation.

Wingo replied, “I have not contacted the Attorney General.”

Knight responded, “Something from the Ethics Commission does not carry a lot of protection from the Attorney General. We have seen that in the past. I think the Attorney General and the Ethics Commission should be in agreement in the working on this.”

Wingo answered, “Maybe this is a first step.”

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, asked, “Do we have anybody doing work outside of their regular scope of work?”

Wingo answered, “Yes I think so.”

Wingo said, “If we had had this bill four or five years ago maybe we could have been spared the embarrassment that this body experienced with the former Speaker.”

Wingo was referring to former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard who was convicted of 12 counts of felony ethics violations in June 2016. Ironically, Hubbard is largely responsible for creating the ethics law that he was found guilty of violating 11 times in his relentless pursuit of outside contracts and personal wealth.

Unlike McClain, however, Hubbard has not yet served any of this sentence.

House Bill 387 passed 67-0 with 26 legislators abstaining.

The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.

(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s Lisa Osborn in 2009 was consulted in this report.)

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